Launched in January 2019, the Grin project is built around the implementation of the Mimblewimble protocol. Its GRIN cryptocurrency aims to become a scalable and less storage-intensive privacy coin.
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What is Grin?
Described as a “lightweight” implementation of Mimblewimble protocol, the ambitions of Grin cryptocurrency have closely followed in the footsteps of goals defined by said protocol. Together with the recent launch of yet another implementation of Mimblewimble - Beam, the users are now faced with two seemingly similar solutions powered by the same blockchain protocol. While their creators claim that they are not focusing on competition, Beam and Grin share both similarities and differences and the best way to tell them apart is to recognize their individual goals, with those of Grin being these:
Privacy should not be treated as a privilege but rather a “default” right. In an effort to enforce better privacy, Grin gets rid of both the address-based system and references to transaction amounts. Instead of using a known address to send money, for example, transactions with Grin are based on the interaction between two or more wallets which exchange data with one another. All of these transactions can be aggregated i.e. fused within a single block, with Grin blocks featuring no intermediary information on individual transactions.
This is supposed to make the transactions indistinguishable from one another, making it harder to single out and trace specific ones. Removing transactions from the blocks should make Grin blocks appear as a single large transaction, with no discernable link between inputs and outputs. As stated on the project’s website, Grin’s goal is to use this system to enable monetary transactions without the risks or fears relating to “external control or oppression”.
The issue of scalability has produced some complex solutions and Grin goes for a more hands-on approach. By using the Mimblewimble protocol, Grin’s cryptographic architecture allows for the removal of the majority of data on earlier transactions. By making intermediary transactions “invisible” on blockchain by their merging, Grin’s blocks can have their output spent by the input from another. As most of these will get spent by incoming inputs in the end, the spent outputs can be removed at no risk for the system, while allowing for the safe storage of only a fraction of data.
This makes it possible for the entire blockchain to be stored, downloaded and verified with the use of few gigabytes only, thus reducing the pressure on the users’ storage resources. At the same time, Grin blockchain should be allowed to scale in parallel with the number of its users rather than with the number of transactions.
Only accessibility, openness and decentralization will make the blockchain technology genuinely future proof. Grin wants to take the decentralization concept to a level going beyond mere technicalities. Based on this approach, the project is said to be developed and distributed based on the open-source philosophy, without leaving control over it in the hands of businesses, foundations or any “leading individuals”.
Decentralized development and focus on the community is extended to its approach to mining, with the coin distribution organized based on the fairness principle. Cryptographic features used for Grin, such as Mimblewimble’s Elliptic Curve Cryptography have been in use for many years now, allowing the Grin team to customize these tried and tested technologies and make them accessible to users with varying degrees of technical expertise.
How Does Grin Implement Mimblewimble Protocol?
Making Grin’s promises of having a full-fledged privacy coin a reality is largely based on its implementation of Mimblewimble protocol. While being sufficiently transparent about its privacy-focused features, Mimblewimble technology shows its more whimsical side by being named after a “Tongue-Tying Curse” spell used in the Harry Potter universe. In August 2016, an early version of the Mimblewimble whitepaper was posted online, initially focusing on resolving privacy and scalability issues with Bitcoin. In line with its naming convention, its anonymous creator is a cryptographer hiding under the pseudonym of “Tom Elvis Jedusor” as the French name of the fictional Harry Potter character Voldemort.
This focus on “tongue-tying” anonymity may come as no surprise since the protocol used with Grin should allow its users to reap the benefits of confidential transactions which come with the following features:
- “Blinding factor” technology allows the senders engaged in transactions to encrypt the amount of bitcoins they want to send with the factors that assign a random value used to encrypt coin amounts in a transaction. In essence, a single multisignature gets created to cover for all inputs and outputs in a transaction. The recipient of a transaction randomly selects a range of blinding factors provided by the sender. These factors are subsequently used as proof of ownership by the receiver, thus permitting them to spend the coins. There is also a public multisignature key which is used to verify the transaction, with only parties engaged in it “knowing” what they are doing as part of their shared secret.
- With the confidential transaction approach, only the two parties involved know the amount of funds which are being transacted, while onlookers are kept in the dark about it. Yet, onlookers can still enforce the validity of a transaction by comparing the number of inputs and outputs. If both are the same, then the transaction will be considered valid. Such a procedure ensures that no coins can be created from nothing and is essential in preserving the integrity of the system.
- Mimblewimble adds an additional ingredient in its push for better privacy – the CoinJoin mechanism by which payments from multiple spenders are combined to form a single transaction, thus making it difficult for an outside party to determine which payment was intended for a specific party.
Is Magic Money Tree an Option with Grin?
Grin’s promise of enforcing privacy by getting rid of residual transaction information on the network does not mean that one can abuse it to create money out of thin air. This is due to the fact that its confidential transaction systems are based on homomorphic encryption, additionally strengthened by the Mimblewimble’s implementation of Pedersen commitment scheme technology.
Homomorphic encryption has found its use in securing cloud computing services since it allows their linking without the risk of compromising sensitive data. The same system allows Grin to stick to its promise to avoid revealing transaction amounts without compromising the system’s ability to verify if the sum of transaction inputs equals the sum of its outputs (with the fee included in this calculation). In addition to this, Grin can compare the sum of all mined coins with the total sum which is being held. This means that trying to cheat the system by simply creating money without cover won’t work, as the Grin can verify the accuracy of information on the total money supply.
At the same time, Pedersen commitment scheme allows full nodes to subtract the encrypted amounts relating to transaction inputs from the related outputs. If the final calculation can demonstrate the equilibrium here, the system will decide that no funds were created “out of nothing” without letting the node know about any transaction amounts whatsoever. Actually, the only verification the Grin system requires is the following:
- Zero sum verification. The sum of outputs minus inputs which equals zero serves as the confirmation that no coins were created illegally.
- Ownership of private keys. Ownership of transaction outputs is guaranteed by the possession of private keys, similar to what is found with many other cryptocurrencies. Yet, with Grin, the proof that an entity is the rightful owner of private keys dost not entail having it sign the transaction directly.
What Is Cuckoo-Powered Proof-of-Work?
Instead of going for more complex and newer solutions, the Grin team picked the Proof of Work mechanism for its consensus model. Here, this age-old implementation comes paired with Cuckoo Cycle algorithm which aims to deliver the simplest possible PoW so far. In addition to its apparent simplicity, Cuckoo Cycle was selected as an ASIC-resistant mining algorithm which is supposed to protect the Grin from being engulfed in spiraling mining hardware race, such as the one which Bitcoin found itself in. Cuckoo Cycle is also a memory-intensive algorithm which recommends it as a viable option for the use with home CPUs, in line with Grin’s promise to push for greater decentralization.
In addition, Grin has introduced small changes to its Mimblewimble protocol to make it quantum resistant. To this effect, each Grin output features a portion of hashed data which is described as “quantum safe”. Should the quantum computing become more widespread, the Grin team plans to simply introduce additional verification which is supposed to shield the existing coins from hacking attacks.
How Does Grin’s Dandelion Implementation Work?
The Grin project has implemented the Dandelion Protocol in an attempt to add yet another privacy layer to its network. This solution has also found its place on other coin platforms such as Zcoin, based on its capacity to lower the probability of “linkability” to personal data such as those relating to addresses and transactions.
This can be beneficial since the mapping of the users’ IP addresses can lead to the discovery of one’s physical location, name and account balance info and other sensitive information. With Dandelion, correlating users’ transactions and their IP addresses by tracking a transaction message to its point of origin should be near-impossible, even without resorting to the use of encryption.
While being superficially similar to Tor, Dandelion is integrated with the existing cryptocurrency peer-to-peer architecture, preventing it from relying on externally provided services or incurring costs in relation with them. Since it is not using encryption, Dandelion is also a less resource-intensive option which can be easily integrated with the existing cryptocurrency gossip protocols. Finally, Grin’s implementation of Dandelion Protocol is slightly different from the vanilla one, since it had to be aligned with transaction-aggregating approach used by its Mimblewinble protcol.
What Is Grin’s Monetary Policy?
Instructed by the approaches used by the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum, Grin attempts to develop a monetary policy whose outcomes would be different from those produced by the existing models. The main goal is making sure that the currency remains stable and valuable over time, which is to be achieved by implementing the following features:
- Grin implements linear supply rate when it comes to inflation. This means that general supply is unlimited with tail emissions planned to continue indefinitely in order to provide an incentive for miners and lower the transaction fees on the main chain.
- Inflation rate with Grin is supposed to start out as high. It is expected to be reduced below 10 percent over a decade, followed by it going to near zero eventually. Yet, at least some level of inflation is planned to stay with Grin perpetually. This is supposed to provide an incentive for users to engage in spending instead of resorting to hodling. By focusing on making Grin a medium of exchange, its creators also plan to discourage rampant speculation.
- Grin is designed to have a block generated every 60 seconds on average with 60 GRIN coins in each block. Block reward should remain fixed for a predefined time interval. Percentage of supply issued to miners should be reduced over time, in line with Grin’s plan to secure low inflation rates and reduce dilution.
- Grin plans to create a network environment suitable for cheap and easy running of full nodes, with new nodes being allowed to synchronize with the rest of the network in a fast manner.
GRIN Coin Availability
In line with its open source philosophy, Grin remains a project whose launch in January 2019 was not preceded by an ICO or a promotional video which would introduce its largely anonymous (and pseudonymous) developers to the public. Since Grin will not be financially maintained by any specific company or foundation, its creators expect to rely on donations from the community to keep the project afloat. As of February 2019, the community’s response to the call to support the project on a purely voluntary has been positive, with a bit more of mixed-bag results when it comes to restoring the Grin’s price performance to the levels it enjoyed immediately after its mainnet went live.
In addition to relying on the popularity of Mimblewimble protocol, the Grin supporters also hope to see their favorite crypto gain traction over time based on its increasing adoption by the cryptocurrency exchanges such as KuCoin, HotBit, Bisq, ChainRift, BitForex, Galleon, BitMesh, BKEX and Nexex.